Voices of the Bay

Table Talk

On the go with portable table designer Dean Robinson


Dean Robinson has always been attracted to small, compact furniture. After a long career as a designer with HOOD SailMakers, Dean started Snappytables, a line of portable tables that snap when you open and shut them. Dean received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from RISD, where he has taught since 2003. The lifelong sailor lives in Bristol overlooking the Kickemuit River, where his treasured Hinckley is anchored.

"It was in a Ready to Assemble furniture class at RISD that this idea came to me. The creative process of invention is to get something in your hands to play with; it will become a dialogue between your intuition and what you have in your hand. I came up with a form from playing with a piece of paper. The object kind of said, ‘Hey table, folding table’ and then this memory came to me of a low thin table my grandfather, an architect, had created. I love the emotional side of objects.

I started with a 13-inch “pillows on the floor” table, a place of intimacy for people to come together. It was a big thing for me. I added the coffee table, which is 17 inches. I use King Starboard Plastic or natural bamboo, which is sustainable, strong, and beautiful. I offer them in solid, vibrant colors and with design options like checkerboard.

I design Snappytables flat to hang on the wall to be visible, just like the Shakers hang their chairs. I love their style and efficiency. The ornamental element of hanging a Snappytable is almost number one to me. You can see it on the wall like a piece of art or an object like an African mask. I always remember the children’s book Scuppers, The Sailor Dog, where there is a place for everything on the boat. I’m a sailor, so being efficient with space is important. I provide a special knob with each table to encourage people to hang it.

I never thought I wanted to teach. I thought I would hate it. They had to push me through the door [at RISD]… I love it, love the kids, love teaching."